(Day 8 of trip, Day 5 at the school)(July 6, 2012)

We completed our work w the school today, Friday, working w the kids and working w the teachers.? Tomorrow (Saturday) we will still be at the school, but it is just a play day w the kids, as we are delivering all the sports equipment we brought (tons of soccer balls, tons of volleyballs, 3 volleyball nets, one dodge or playground ball, lots and lots of frisbees, jump ropes, material to make the game “64 squares”, and more).? In fact, due to the volume of donated items we brought, we are taking some of the sports gear and giving it to the surrounding neighborhood kids that are not in the school, and then taking the remainder to another “care point” (school) that they are starting here in another region of Awasa.

During the week, we had the chance to work w the kids, teach them, run a full school program w new crafts and art programs that they had never had the chance to do before (so many simple things that we take for granted every day), and have game time.? Even the structured game time was new to them.? Like all kids, they eat up all the new stuff…are so happy, so willing to join in, none stand off to the side, they are all smiles, all very polite, even to each other….amazing.

When teaching the kids, the teaching conditions have improved a lot over last year, but they are still almost impossible.? They have just 3 formal classrooms on the campus, and each classroom is about 12′ x 15′.? In this room are benches that also have counter tops to act as desks.? Now, at home, we complain if a school classroom has more than 30 kids….imagine in a room about 1/3 the size of our normal classroom, but put 75 kids in that room, and have them range over many multiple age groups, and then teaching the class.? If not for the cooperation of the kids, this would be impossible.? Their behavior was so great, so willing to listen and learn and follow instructions, even w all our words needing to be translated.? They now have one little light hanging from the ceiling, and one window, one door.? The walls are made of a mixture of mud and sand.? The good news is the soil has an element to it that when mixed, allows it to act much like cement….its’ not cement, but it does hold up well, and provides protection from the weather.

As part of our project, we met w the school leadership, and did some planning together, and then met w the teachers, and since we had so many teachers in our group, they were able to share teaching methods, structure, and programs to allow the school to further its progress.

They had done their homework on the project side.? They are still waiting for final approval from the government on the sanctioning of them as a formal school, but all looks good on that front.? They need to expand now in two areas…..they need more basic classroom space for the existing kids they have, and to allow them to add more kids (as mentioned before, we want to expand the support of the number of kids from the current level of 200 to about 300…..that’s a 50% increase).? Therefore, they need to about double the current classroom space, and add better desks and teaching aids.? The second part, is that they are also waiting on final approval on the large piece of land to be granted to the school, and this land would be used for higher grade levels.? We need this so that the kids have a place to go all the way thru middle school.

Both of these projects are very doable, but not sure we can raise that much money in one year.? The classroom expansion will only take about $15k, and the new school will take about $45k.? We have a good base raised already for the classrooms, but will need to really refine the program and put a lot of energy behind this to get the larger amount.

But, all you had to do was be in the school, and look at the fence…and see all the other kids that wanted in, and your heart just breaks.? We’re not just talking about helping those in need, we’re talking about giving them a future…a future that they would not have otherwise have had.

On the next update….I’ll talk about the “home” visits we went on.? For those of us on the team, where we sponsor a child, we were able to go to their home, meet the family, and see the living conditions for them.? This is mind boggling to say the least….more on that to come.

Thanks for taking the time to read this….thanks for all those who have provided support….the need is great, but the rewards are greater still.


(Day 3 of trip, Day 1 at the school)(July 2, 2012)

Rather than just creating more www articles, thought I would just append to this one on the results of our trip and project.

To understand the real IMPACT and value of this project, you have to know a little more about the current state of Ethiopia. There are lots of third world countries in the world, and lots of places where there are TONS of needs. But, finding and picking the right project, just like defining the right new product, are essential to success. Ethiopia met those set of conditions in our view to being at the right spot at the right time for assistance. The country has very rich resources, but just has not been able to harness those resources in a way that can change their position in the world. However, over the last ten years, Ethiopia has taken key steps to try to grab themselves by the bootstraps, and work hard to implement a true long term plan. Part of that revolves around the necessary infrastructure upgrades – water to all areas, electricity to all areas, and roads to allow the economy to produce. Once they have those pieces in place, the other critical element is education. They are focussed on education….much like what India did so many years ago. The government is getting behind education in a big way.

That’s where this project took foot. The view by the Ethiopian government was that kids can be educated, trained, and skills developed to harness the opportunities in Ethiopia. That’s great, but like all projects, it can’t provide those opportunities to everyone, and as we saw in India, the country developed into the “has” and the “has nots”. Therefore, there is an opportunity to fill the gap, and invest in kids lives that can change their life forever, and not just them, but change their whole families and future families position in life. That is the opportunity that real change can deliver.

And, now I can report, we ARE SEEING real change being made. The kids are AWESOME, and the school that we are supporting is having a GREAT impact on them. These kids, who total over 200 currently, mostly have NO parents, and most wouldn’t even have what we would call a home. We got to see some of these homes…..to us they would be incredibly primitive. A house to many of these kids is a building about 200 to 400 sq feet…….no floor, only dirt. Mud walls. No windows. A single door to the room. This ONE room is their kitchen, bedroom, and family room. And, because these kids are mostly orphans, its not really their home, it is the home of the family that they have to live with. Now, w that rosy picture, guess how many meals they get a day when at home during the summer of school break??? ONE….one meal a day, and usually what we would consider an appetizer…not a whole meal that we would “need” for our day. However, due to the investment we have made in the kids lives FIRST, they now have clothes for school (a uniform), they have a decent meal (at the school, AND the school sends each family some grain every quarter to help the family they live with as well), and they have school to go to.

The kids are amazing….we live w so much, and they live w so little. But, the LOVE and affection, JOY they express is overwhelming and amazing. They just love on us all day long. Their smiles are enough to melt the ice pack. They smile, sing, play, obey, learn, follow directions, everything, and just smile and are thrilled to be able to do this. Your heart just melts, and you want to do soooooooo much more than what we are doing. The need is SO great. But, this is changing kids lives. Just in the one year from our visit last year, we can see so much development on all fronts w the school. That’s what this years trip was all about, working w the funding of the kids and the school. Now we can focus on the next steps, to grow the school so that more kids can be served, and the school can serve them till the higher grades.

So much to tell, and such a different world than what we live in. This is like being in India 20 years ago, or Mexico 30 years ago, or so many other places that have so little compared to us. The streets are a huge contrast….you have people driving donkey carts to get food to the market to sell, you have huts on the side of the road where people hope to sell something that day….they are just trying to survive, and then you have scooters, trikes, goats, dogs, cattle, bikes, and cars all sharing the same road. Each represents a different segment of life here. Some roads are paved…some are paved w stones, and then many are just dirt. Therefore, the garbage infrastructure is part of it, or the lack of garbage infrastructure is part of it. ? Garbage is dumped outside…but that is OK, as it feeds the cattle, sheep, goats, that many families need to provide food for themselves.? Again, much stark contrast….new building and high rises being built, but “lean to” all around still.

Usually when you travel to these far off countries, one of the things people wonder about is the weather and food. Well, we can report on that…the weather is great….just a little hotter (but not hot) than we have in Los Gatos, lots more rain, more tropical in that sense, but not much humidity, and the food is great.

On to DAY 2…more teaching to do, more time w the kids, more time to work w the leaders on the next steps. But teaching and leading kids (over 200 of them), in a full program, including doing all the sports and activities is HARD WORK. But, then they smile at you, and hold your hand…..and who cares…we need to be doing so much more.

(June 2012)

Update to our preparations for our Ethiopia trip in July 2012.

See our original post about this trip, what it is, why we are going, what the needs are, and how you can help.

The great news is the amount of support we have received….the contributions and supplies have been awesome.? We had worked w the school to define a relatively simple list of supplies that they needed for the playground, and for normal school use.

These are the types of things we needed –

Playground equipment – soccer balls, volleyball net, volleyball, frisbees, ball pumps, rope, parachutes, kites, goalie gloves, uniforms, cones, jump ropes, baseballs, bats, dodgeballs, basketballs, and ball bags.

School supplies – pencils, crayons, markers, colored pencils, straws, glue sticks, construction paper, water color sets, paint brushes, tissue paper, pipe cleaners, dixie cups, pins, scissors, dry erase crayons, wristbands, stickers, sharpie pens, string, water bottles, spray bottles, buckets, small tools, and pencil sharpeners.

As of this writing, we have rec’d over 10,000…..yes, you read that right, 10,000 items for us to take w us.? We are prepping and packing the supplies this weekend, as we leave on Friday June 29, 2012.? This is going to be soooo GREAT.

Stay tuned…..